What is the typical amount of treasure awarded in a fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign?

The fifth-edition Dungeon Master’s Guide advises dungeon masters, “You can hand out as much or as little treasure as you want.” The new Dungeons & Dragons game offers DMs the freedom to create a gritty, low-magic campaign without any “intrinsic bonuses” that fix the math. It allows legendary campaigns where parties fly like superheroes and challenge the gods. All good, but most of us want a campaign that feels like D&D. Most will seek a middle path.

lossy-page1-399px-Dokumentation,_utställningen_'Silver_och_smycken_till_vardag_och_fest'_år_2006_-_Hallwylska_museet_-_85820.tifFor this baseline, the DMG lists random treasure hoards and suggests how many hoards to award through a tier of adventure.

Obviously, you can award treasure without rolling a random hoard. I suspect most DMs prefer to imagine their own treasure parcels and to award them as they see fit. In this post, I unpack the random hoards and find the middle path behind the random tables. If you skip the hoards, but aim to match the typical treasure awards, this post provides the targets that the DMG lacks.

Q: How many treasure hoards will the PCs win?

The DMG offers this guideline: “Over the course of a typical campaign, a party finds treasure hoards amounting to seven rolls on the Challenge 0-4 table, eighteen tolls on the Challenge 5-10 table, twelve rolls on the Challenge 11-16 table, and eight rolls on the Challenge 17+ table.” (p.133)

Q: How many encounters must a PC complete to level?

At levels 1 and 2, PCs will typically complete 6 medium-difficulty encounters to gain a level.

At level 3, PCs will typically complete 12 medium-difficulty encounters to gain a level.

From level 4 to 9, PCs will typically complete 15 medium-difficulty encounters to gain a level.

From level 10 to 19, PCs will typically complete 10 medium-difficulty encounters to gain a level.

In any case, each hard encounter counts for about 1½ medium encounters. In actual play, the numbers will vary. For instance, many DMs award experience for non-combat challenges.

Throughout all tiers of play, PCs will collect 1 treasure hoard per 5 medium encounters. If you typically finish 5 encounters per play session, players get 1 hoard per session.

Q: How much gold will PCs gain over their career?

The following table shows the wealth a party will gain over their career, to be divided among the PCs. The hoard values come from averages calculated at blog of holding and Dreams in the Lich House. The value of a hoard at a tier tends to be 10 times the value of the prior tier. This fits with D&D’s tradition of steep increases in treasure. See “Why D&D characters get tons of gold and nowhere to spend it.” All treasure values are in gold pieces.

Level Hoards at level Encounters
at level
Hoard value Gold at level Cumulative gold at start
1 1 6 376 376 0
2 1 6 376 376 376
3 2 12 376 752 751
4 3 15 376 1,128 1,504
5 3 15 4,545 13,635 2,632
6 3 15 4,545 13,635 16,267
7 3 15 4,545 13,635 29,902
8 3 15 4,545 13,635 43,537
9 3 15 4,545 13,635 57,172
10 3 17 4,545 13,635 70,807
11 2 10 36,200 72,400 84,442
12 2 10 36,200 72,400 156,842
13 2 10 36,200 72,400 229,242
14 2 10 36,200 72,400 301,642
15 2 10 36,200 72,400 374,042
16 2 10 36,200 72,400 446,442
17 2 10 336,025 672,050 518,842
18 2 10 336,025 672,050 1,190,892
19 2 10 336,025 672,050 1,862,942
20 2 336,025 672,050 2,534,992
Wealth at end of career: 3,207,042

Unlike Third- and fourth-edition, this edition offers no obvious outlet for the PCs’ wealth at higher levels. Earlier editions empowered PCs to buy magic items. PCs spent their gold on equipment that enhanced their power. The DMGs showed the wealth that PCs required to beat the monsters. Too much gold meant that PCs romped through dungeons, dropping monsters like pinatas; too little meant total-party kills. The new game sets no such requirements.

Q: How many magic items will each PC gain?

This table shows the magic items each member of a party of 4 will gain when they
score the typical number of treasure hoards. To keep pace, parties with more than 4
PCs will need to gain magic items from other sources such as more hoards, fallen enemies,
or a magic item market.

Level Consumable items Permanent items
1 1 common 1st uncommon
2 1 common
3 1 common
4 1 common
5 1 common 2nd uncommon or a 1st rare
6 1 uncommon
7 1 uncommon
8 1 uncommon 1st rare or 2nd uncommon
9 1 uncommon
10 1 uncommon
11 1 rare 2nd rare or a 1st very rare
12 1 rare
13 1 rare
14 1 rare 1st very rare or a 2nd rare
15 1 rare
16 1 very rare
17 1 very rare 1st legendary
18 1 very rare
19 1 very rare
20 1 legendary

Update: Andy Pearlman presents an exhaustive analysis of the treasure tables in this post on Magic and the Math of 5E. He concludes that PCs will claim about 5 items over the course of their career rather than the 6 listed in my table. Also, his analysis shows that +3 and other legendary items start trickling into the PCs’ hands at level 11.

This table only shows the magic PCs gain in a typical game, not the magic they require. In earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons, higher-level characters required magic items that increased accuracy, which is a character’s chance of hitting. Without these accuracy enhancements, a PC could hardly hit, only flail away, hoping for a natural 20. In fifth edition, PCs can hit without magical accuracy bonuses, so they do not require magic just to play. Obviously, magic items still make PCs more powerful, but at any level, a PC without magic can contribute.

Still to come: In fifth-edition D&D, what is gold for? Choosing a campaign style

This entry was posted in D&D fifth edition, Rules and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to What is the typical amount of treasure awarded in a fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign?

  1. Greg says:

    Awesome writeup, Dave. I’ll be referencing this as I move forward in my campaign!

    Another thought, although I recognize this is going to probably be too much to ask from an analysis standpoint, is the impact of treasure on a party’s effective level. We know the MM challenge ratings are set up assuming no magical treasure, which is nice, but it sort of puts a different kind of problem into play, which is that highly equipped parties will have a much easier time with encounters than the encounter building guidelines/CR might indicate.

    You mentioned in response to an earlier comment of mine that you found PC tactics to have a much greater impact on the outcome of a battle than raw stats, and I do agree with this. That being said, any tips for adjusting the difficulty of encounters for crafty parties or really well equipped parties? I think the simplest way is to just add a level or two to each character when calculating encounter budgets, do you agree?

    • DM David says:

      Hi Greg,
      I don’t have a good feel for how magical equipment affects a group’s power level. If anyone manages to figure it out, I’ll be first in line to read their analysis.

      I agree that adding a level or two makes a good way to adjust encounter level. I haven’t played mid levels much, but I’m getting the impression that DMs who want to create fun, balanced encounters should draw from the 4E bag of tricks: 1. Include roughly as many foes as party members, because the outnumbered side suffers a big disadvantage. 2. Include a variety of monsters to limit the power of a monster or PC with attacks or defenses that prove particularly effective. Rock-paper-scissors becomes more interesting when one side isn’t all rock and the other all scissors.

      Thanks for your comment. I’m happy you liked the writeup!

      Dave

  2. Greatzoopa says:

    In my 5e campaign, I have explicitly put magic items (that aren’t needed for solving puzzles) out of the way of my adventurers. For example, the island that serves as their base of operations on the archipelago the campaign is based in has a legendary magic item literally within their sight, and it has been since level 1, but the puzzle required to unlock it requires going to four separate islands in the proper order, decoding the clues on each of those items, and then figuring out that the civilization that left the magic item behind did their math in base 8 (I’ve got a group of electrical engineering majors. They’ll figure that bit out.
    But the assumption that the party doesn’t have access to magic items, makes them feel more powerful because of them. And it allows me to stock items in dungeons according to what would logically make sense, not just sticking items to party needs to stay current according to some ridiculous “expected progression.”
    I do the same thing with treasure. They get some treasure just for going to new location and exploring a bit, but the motherloads? I keep those guarded by the equivalent of Dark Souls’ Black Knights, encounters that I make sure to tell them will WRECK them if they go in unprepared, and probably will even prepared. Because my group has been pretty ballsy/lucky/smart lately, they’ve each got the gold that, according to the chart, the PARTY should have as a whole. But that’s all right, because they earned it. And after the near party-wipe the last time they tried my optional encounters, they’ve sworn them off for the next month.

    • DM David says:

      Greatzoopa,
      I love the idea of the unreachable magic item in plain view, posing a challenge and offering hooks! I will use that sometime.

      Every campaign should tease players with challenges that they know they lack the power to face. When the PCs finally gain the power to overcome these challenges, the rewards seem much sweeter.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Dave

    • Baptor says:

      A great take on the legendary Sword-In-Stone motif. Gives me goosebumps. Well done sir.

  3. Rabid Tribble says:

    Just want to thank you for all of your write ups. The write ups are encouraging and educational.
    C.
    Dallas, TX.

    • DM David says:

      Hi R.T.
      Thanks for the kind words of encouragement! This sort of feedback keeps me at the keyboard.

      Dave

  4. Sean Robert Meaney says:

    The gold is for castle building hence chopping down trees for firewood, and flogging half to some merchant with a quarry in trade for roughed blocks of stone you go get.

    You should write the following in your dmg:
    Wagon load of firewood (1120cp/2240lb)
    Acre of light forest (20,000lb wood)
    Logging (1 acre/woodsman/day)
    Annual firewood use (10,000lb/peasant)

    Stone (10’x10’x10’/76 ton)
    Minimum Cost to mine anything (1 ounce of gold/ton of material)
    Quarry (76 ton/five labourers/week)

    That should be sufficient to let you calculate the amount and cost of stone in your wall of stone around the village you are turning into a fortress and the timber you trade for it.

  5. Andy says:

    I don’t think your math is quite right – 6 magic items is likely on the high side and the PCs seem to get the items more quickly than expected. That said, it is definitely in the right ballpark and the level by level breakdown is very helpful.

    Something to also mention is that there’s a very high probability that a given party of 4 ends up finding a couple of +3 weapons(or their rough equivalent) over the course of the campaign.

    I did a work up of the math over here:
    http://community.wizards.com/forum/product-and-general-dd-discussions/threads/4200116

    • DM David says:

      Andy,
      Thanks for directing me to your analysis. Amazing work! Looks like my table gives a bit more magic than the baseline. I’m going to add a note to the post.

      Dave

      • Andy says:

        No problem at all. I’d also note there is a big damage difference expected between someone who has no magic weapons and someone with a +3 weapon. Probably on the order of a 50% increase for certain classes(i.e. Fighter) with very specific feats(Great Weapon Master, Sharpshooter)

        It makes the often heard claim “You don’t need magic items to be effective” suspect. I think the more accurate claim is that you don’t need a specific magic item to be effective. At some point in the day, the party without magic items is going to get exhausted out when the party with magic items is still going strong…

    • Brad says:

      Andy,

      I’d love to see your math, but sadly the Wizards forum is gone now. Any chance you’ve still got a copy and would be willing to share it?

      Thanks!

  6. Pingback: Legacy Weapons in 5E: Brigid’s Hammer | Dungeon Hacking

  7. Pingback: The Dungeon Master’s Binder | neuronphaser

  8. Pingback: Typical amounts of treasure to award in DnD 5th edition. – RPG Plaza

  9. Pingback: Hexcrawl High: The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake – Temple of Mick

Leave a Reply